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Hot on the heels of the first Rory Branagan adventure comes this new story and The Dog Squad is every bit as sharp and quirky, and possibly even funnier. Dogs in Rory’s neighbourhood are going missing and he’s determined to track down the thieves, especially when his beloved Wilkins Welkin is snatched. Confined to his bedroom, his foot in a surgical boot, Rory can only watch as his associate Cassidy sneaks into the chief suspect’s house. It’s all a bit Rear Window in fact, but with the added joys of a comic dog fight, the intervention of Mrs Welkins and her slipper, and Rory’s big brother’s nascent moustache. Meanwhile Rory’s efforts to find out why his father left them continue and two new clues are revealed. This parallel plotline adds an extra layer and touch of genuine poignancy while Ralph Lazar’s illustrations match the text in wit and idiosyncrasy.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | June 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: animals, adventure and an irresistible cast of characters This new series has everything that marks out the best, most satisfying and enjoyable children’s books. For a start there’s a smart but impulsive, ready-for-anything central character in Kat Wolfe, who quickly finds an equally enterprising new best friend, Harper Lamb. Then there’s a procession of the best pets/animal helpers ever, from half-feral Savannah cat Tiny to flighty racehorse Charmed Outlaw, to movie-line quoting parrot Bailey. Put them into an adventure involving genuinely threatening double-crossing secret agents, and incompetent would-be assassins, all set in a beautiful and perfectly described Dorset coastal village, mix in warm family relationships, and you have one of the best new adventure stories of the year. Lauren St John brings all the elements together with seemingly effortless ease and there can’t be a young reader in the country who won’t lap this up. ~ Andrea Reece
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | “The day is long, the world is wide, you’re young and free,” Davie’s mam announces at the start of a sweltering day. But Davie doesn’t feel that way. He recently lost his dad and “he hates this dead-end place, where nothing seems to happen, nothing seems to change. Sometimes he just wants to walk out of it and keep on walking and leave it all behind”. Then this morning, as Davie walks through his hometown, David discovers that something has happened - a local lad has been killed, and Davie thinks he knows who’s responsible. Amidst the speculation of his Tyneside neighbours, Davie embarks on a pilgrimage of sorts, encountering a cast of wisdom-imparting folk along the way. There’s wooden-legged Wilf who shares advice and fruit gums; the openhearted priest who makes a confession; the girls creating a “world of wonders” garden. While walking, Davie feels the flutter and ache of grief as “bleak, black memories” surface but, as a friend of his father says, “sometimes a memory or a dream is a fine place to be”. “What is lost might be discovered again, but in a different form”, counsels another character. And as he continues on his way, watching out for the murder suspect, Davie seems to find his father in another form. Wise and soulfully unexpected, this is truly a book for all ages, by an author who exudes the uncanny elegance of a master conjurer.
May 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Intense exposé of extreme misogyny and male privilege An unflinching novel about brutally toxic masculinity, male collusion and how justice systems and society at large are still appallingly rigged against women. Life is tough for Ellie and her dad in their decrepit ghost town. Ellie’s mom ran out on them when she was still a baby, she’s cripplingly lonely and her dad never fulfilled his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Convinced – and told by her peers - that she’s ugly, Ellie’s dream is “to be pretty. That’s part of what makes a girl,” she remarks. “Girls who are pretty are likeable. Pretty is power.” So when privileged Caleb tells her she’s pretty, she craves him, even though she also “hated how he made me feel uncomfortable”. His attention legitimises and comforts her, even when he dumps her, even when he’s humiliates her. And then it’s too late. He and his family are monstrous, and Ellie can’t escape. The brotherhood of abuse portrayed here will sicken and shock, while your heart will ache for Ellie, for her dad, and for the love and friendships she deserved to enjoy. Relentlessly raw and unusually framed, this is perhaps best recommended for fans of crime fiction with conscience. Bold in its bleakness, this steers well clear of any kind of happy-ever-after Hollywood ending. In real life baddies don’t always get what they had coming. In real life not everyone has a best friend to turn to. On a positive note, this might just enrage to the point of inspiring readers to take a stand on issues of systemic misogyny, and it makes a strong case for the need to take time to truly get to know people, to find friends you can open up to. ~ Joanne Owen
April 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2018 A deliciously exciting story with a great boarding school setting which weaves together reading and mystery in a most engaging way. Exclusive St Rita’s girls’ boarding looks like a very ordinary place. But when new girl Daphne arrives she finds that nothing is quite what it seems. Things are especially odd in the library! Can Daphne get to the bottom of what is going on? Dave Shelton’s illustrations capture the spirit of the story perfectly. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for April 2018 The Grotlyn by Benji Davies The Book Case: An Emily Lime Mystery by Dave Shelton Lady Mary by Lucy Worsley The Wardrobe Monster by Bryony Thomson The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed
Bestselling author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Lydia Monks have teamed up for another brilliant picture book. Right in the farmyard among all the noisy animals with their MOOs! and QUACKS! and BAAs! and OINKs! lives a tiny silent ladybird. This beautiful glittery creature (little fingers will love to feel her sparkly shape) is so quiet that she hears two crafty robbers plotting to raid the farmyard. And she comes up with a very clever plan to stop them, helped by the very noisy animals all around her. A wonderful adventure with gorgeous stylised illustrations. ~ Julia Eccleshare Can you find all the words in this special What the Ladybird Heard Picture Wordsearch?
April 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: in his own words, quirky, super-readable saga of a ten-year-old ‘detective’ Ten-year-old Rory is pretty satisfied with his life. He lives happily with his mum and brother, and has friends, best being Wilkins Welkin, his next-door neighbour’s sausage dog. But there are two big problems in his life: no-one ever tells him anything, and his dad disappeared when Rory was three. To find out why, he decides to become a detective – despite the derision of his big brother. In a timely bit of luck, new neighbour Cassidy Callaghan – aka ‘The Cat’ – offers to help. The two, of course, get into all sorts of trouble, and to the surprise of everyone, unearth some real villains in the process. Words and illustrations are both very funny and surprisingly touching. This will sit happily next to the Wimpy Kids, Dork Diaries and Barry Losers, but for its idiosyncratic and convincing voice and real sense of family dynamics, is probably closest to Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean books. A great new series for young readers. ~ Andrea Reece
Award-winning Frances Hardinge is spellbinding is this hugely entertaining and dramatic Victorian thriller. When Faith’s father dies suddenly she knows she must try to find out exactly what he was hiding in the local caves she had recently visited with him. Discovering the extraordinary Lie Tree which thrives off hearing lies and, in turn, reveals secrets long kept hidden Faith begins to uncover a web of secrets and mysteries that will change her view of the world forever. Faith is a feisty heroine whose courage combined with a determination that girls can be brave and resolute leads to the exposure of much dishonesty and many deceptions. ~ Julia Eccleshare. WINNER of the 2015 COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR and Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016. Winner of the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 12 - 16 year old category. The Lie Tree is only the second children’s book to take the overall Costa Book of the Year prize, and the first since Philip Pullman won with The Amber Spyglass in 2001. James Heneage, chair of the final judges, said: “Part horror, part detective, part historical, this is a fantastic story with great central characters and narrative tension. It’s not only a fabulous children’s book but a book that readers of all ages will love."
Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2019 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | January 2019 Debut of the Month | | Stinging with drama, action and, above all, a relentless sense of urgency, this ruthlessly remarkable debut sees an indomitable Jewess go undercover. When Sarah’s mother is shot dead, there’s no time for sentimentality, no time to grieve. Sarah must press on, “keep moving”, for her survival depends on it. She joins forces with the Captain, a man she discovers is part of the resistance against the Nazis, and Sarah will spy for him. To this end, she adopts a new identity. She becomes Ursula Haller, the “good little dumb National Socialist Monster”. The Captain secures her a place at a school attended by the daughters of top Nazis, and here she must befriend Elsa, whose father is a leading scientist. The conditions at the school are repugnantly cruel, but Sarah is sharp and strong beyond her fifteen years. Though her childhood was curtailed by her actress mother, and then by the Nazis, she’s defiantly resilient, and infiltrates the grand home and secret lab of a top SS scientist. Compelling and quick-paced, the writing - like Sarah’s character - is indelibly raw, and this is a fiercely gripping read. The Costa Judges said : ‘A compelling, darkly thrilling debut - tense, cinematic and brilliant.’
With a cast of characters as colourful as the day-glo pinks and greens of its illustrations, and a plot that’s just as bright, Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective is going to wow young readers. Guests and staff are stunned when a talented hippo disappears right in the middle of her performance in the Hotel Royale’s talent competition. Fortunately Fabio is on hand to solve the mystery, and a couple of others in the process. Children who enjoy detective stories will love following the clues with Fabio, and children and adults alike will delight in the lush setting and in the comedy provided by Fabio’s co-stars, including hapless assistant Gilbert the Giraffe. For another quirky, satisfying animal detective series see Alex T Smith’s new Mr Penguin books.
In a nutshell: comic mishaps and triumphs of a schoolboy detective A sign in his local library catches the eye of schoolboy detective Damian Drooth: it offers a weekend at Disneyland Paris for the winners of a ‘mega quiz’. Damian rounds up his gang and sets them to work, first of all to raise the £10 entrance fee, and then to swot up in readiness. He’s understandably furious when the quiz turns out to be a scam, but quickly cheers up at the prospect of tracking down the conman. With echoes of Horrid Henry and Just William, Damian is a terrific character, determined, confident, and totally unfazed by adult disapproval. This series will have children and adults alike chuckling and is perfect for newly independent readers. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: comic mishaps and triumphs of a schoolboy detective Damian Drooth, self-proclaimed boy detective, is off with his mum to Green Park Holiday Village. Mum is standing in for the chef, who’s ill, and Damian can have a holiday – or at least that’s what Mum suggests. Fat chance! As soon as he hears that kids’ bikes are going missing, Damian is on the case and determined to track down the culprit, no matter what. As ever, he causes complete chaos without even really trying, but manages too to apprehend the thief. It’s another funny, satisfying story in an excellent series and is absolutely perfect for newly independent readers. ~ Andrea Reece
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